Mulgrew: Teacher Back-Pay 'A Big Issue' in Contract Negotiations

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, has said he does not want to negotiate a new contract for teachers through the media. But on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show Monday, he said the importance of improving teacher working conditions, retaining teachers and back-pay are key issues for the union when it comes to negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"It is a big issue for us. It is a very large issue for us," he said of back-pay for New York City's teachers who have been working under an expired contract since 2009.

Nate, a teacher from Manhattan, called in to the show to say he would be willing to forgo back-pay so long as teachers received a pay-raise and improved working conditions. He said teachers put in far more hours than are allotted during the work day to plan lessons and fill out paperwork.

"Frankly, it's not about money," he said. "It's about having the time to do our job effectively."

Nate said that, beyond lesson plans and grading papers on their own time, teachers must parse student data and document student progress in overly burdensome formats.

"When I'm at school during my prep periods, I'm required to do this jumping through hoops of making these bizarre spreadsheets that get sent to central and never get used for anything."

Mulgrew also highlighted teacher retention as an issue for New York City, condemned the implementation of the Common Core learning standards as a "fiasco" and addressed a caller's concerns about the Absent Teacher Reserve, a pool of teachers that remain on staff at the Department of Education but lack permanent positions at schools.